Monday, February 14, 2005

What's the cost of editorial independence?

French dailies are suffering as much as newspapers anywhere. They're battling dropping circulation figures, an intransigent union - Syndicat du Livre - and competition from free commuter dailies.

But the solutions are not always anodyne.

In response to the crisis, two of the biggest - Libé and Le Figaro - have found backers with deep pockets. Libé's savior is Rothschild, while Le Figaro was acquired last summer by defense tycoon Serge Dassault for an estimated $1.6 billion.

The new owners are mostly interested in influence, as BusinessWeek reports:
"The government wields enormous power over the economy, and industrialists are always looking for ways to promote their interests. But that can lead to newsroom clashes. Last August, Dassault told Le Figaro not to publish part of a story referring to talks between France and Algeria over buying Dassault's Rafale fighter. 'The journalist was told that the line he wrote about the Rafale negotiation would make our group uncomfortable,' says Le Figaro board member Rudi Roussillon. Dassault declined to comment."

No comments: